Who here actually enjoys stretching? I know I don’t! Many of you probably feel the same way. After an hour of intense effort at the gym, you finish and the last thing you feel like doing is sitting in a pigeon pose.
Many of us have felt this, but it can have consequences on your progress. If you think your workout is done when the clock runs out of time, you are missing out on the benefits of stretching, which can aid with muscle recovery and improved mobility.
If you have another event or activity that you immediately need to attend to after class, then yes, I totally understand why you skip or breeze through the cool-down stretches. But if you have the time, why do you not stick around?
If you aren’t convinced to change your ways, I challenge you to at least perform these 5 stretches every day for a month. I promise you will notice the benefit of adding a few more minutes to your routine.
Area of focus: quads, hips
This simple but extremely effective stretch can help with running, squatting, or hip hinging movements. You will sit in a lunge position on the floor in front of a sofa or wall. Bend your right leg behind you, bringing your shin against the sofa or wall. You want your shin to be as vertical as possible. Your left leg remains in a lunge position with the foot flat in position. Hold this pose for 2 minutes and then switch legs. The goal is to have your body as upright as possible but get into a position that you are able to tolerate.
Area of focus: muscles of the chest
This is a great chest opener that reduces soreness from pressing movements but also can improve shoulder impingement when going overhead. Extend your arm and place your palm flat on the corner of a door frame, wall, or anything that doesn’t move. Slowly turn your torso away from the outstretched arm until you feel a pull in your chest. Hold this for 2 minutes, then switch sides.
Area of focus: shoulders
This dynamic stretch is an effective way to improve shoulder mobility. And it’s very simple! Lay on the ground, chest down. Stretch your arms out above your head and lift them as high as you can, keeping your head and chest relaxed on the floor. From there, “swim” your arms back until you make a T-shape, keeping your palms down. Turn your hands over and continue to swim them back towards your butt until your thumbs touch. Then move your arms the same way back to your original starting position. Repeat this for a total of 10 reps, moving slowly through each swim (each swim should take between 6-10 seconds).
Area of focus: hips, glutes
This classic yoga move is a great stretch to target your tight hips and glutes. To do this stretch, come to the ground and slide your right leg forward in front of your chest. Bend your knee to a 45-degree angle (your foot should rest comfortably in front of the opposite hip). Your left leg should be extended and behind you. Try keeping your chest up and sit into the stretch you feel in your right hip. Hold this for 2 minutes and then switch legs.
Area of focus: spine
Many mobility issues can come from the thoracic area of our spine (middle of your back), which makes improving mobility in this area important! To perform this dynamic movement, you will start by lying on your hands and knees. To perform the ‘cow’ part of the movement, we are attempting to extend our back. As you inhale, let your belly drop towards the ground as you also lift your chest high and let your shoulder blades slide down. You will then perform the ‘cat” part of the movement, where we are flexing our back. As you exhale, draw your belly button in towards your spine to round your back. Perform each of these a total of 10 times each. I want you to pause and hold each position for 3-5 seconds and move slowly as you switch between them.
Give these stretches a try. Add them to your daily routine! I guarantee they won’t make you feel worse! Let me know if you have any questions about any of them!